Valtteri Bottas is not ruling out the possibility of Alfa Romeo battling with Mercedes as the 2023 F1 season kicks off in Bahrain.
The Swiss outfit looked to have had a decent three days of pre-season testing in February, with Zhou Guanyu topping the timesheets at the end of the second day.
While Aston Martin were the team to catch the eye of many, Bottas is hopeful that Alfa can be slightly ahead of the rest of the midfield pack.
"As always from testing, its difficult to say," Bottas told media, including RacingNews365.com.
"The midfield is so close. You don't know [if] teams [have] found something between the test and the race, if they're bringing something new, so that can change because it's so close.
"We're definitely in the mix. I really hope we're kind of ahead of that midfield group, but I don't know. There [are] too many question marks."
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How do Alfa Romeo compare to F1 rivals?
When asked how Alfa Romeo's long-run pace compared to their rivals during testing, Bottas explained: "Not as fast as the Red Bull, not as fast as Ferrari, and also Aston looked faster in the racing.
"But after that it's really close. Time of the day [of the long runs] makes a big difference. Also engine modes can make a difference, almost up to one second.
"Based on those, we're in the mix."
In terms of whether he might pose a challenge to his former team, Mercedes, Bottas acknowledged that the Silver Arrows' pace in testing seemed to indicate that it could happen.
"From the long runs, it seemed [like we could compete with them]," the Finn commented.
"There were times that they were faster than us, we think, but then there were times when there were slower than us. It depends if they managed to fix any issues they potentially had.
"From our numbers, it didn't look like they are going to be fighting for the win, but you never know."
Ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, RacingNews365.com journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth analyse where each of the F1 teams stands after pre-season testing.